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Having an effective employee recognition program can be very beneficial for companies, especially in improving employee engagement, higher business productivity, and lower turnover rate. However, when not planned and implemented effectively, an employee recognition program will not only work but can also be counterproductive, instead.
It is crucial to remember that each employee is unique with different personalities, behaviors, and preferences on how he / she would like to be recognized. Recognizing employees in the wrong way can be counterproductive and can actually decrease morale and engagement.
In this post, we will cover the following to effectively recognize employees: the types of recognition employees may prefer; how to recognize different employees effectively; and more. Without further ado, let us begin.
Employee recognition is an act of acknowledging and praising employee behavior and action. All individuals like to be appreciated, so employee recognition is important for companies to express their appreciation to employees. According to a recent survey, 37% of surveyed employees admitted that employee recognition was the most important factor for them to stay in their current companies. However, over 65% of surveyed employees have not received any forms of recognition in the last year (2020).
When people are not properly recognized, they will not feel motivated, which in turn will reduce their productivity. On the other hand, regularly giving out meaningful and deserved recognition to employees can help companies maximize their potentials.
Genuine employee recognition displays three main purposes:
All individuals love to be praised. When employees achieve personal or work-related achievements and they are acknowledged by others, the good feelings of achievement will be amplified.
Bolstering Organizational Values
Employee recognition can be used to acknowledge behaviors and actions that align well with companies’ values. Doing so can help reinforce these values in the companies’ cultures.
Companies should not only focus on recognizing performance and results, but strong efforts also deserve to be acknowledged. Recognizing strong efforts can motivate employees to put in even more effort and perform even better in the future.
Different Types of Employee Recognition
In planning an employee recognition program, it is crucial to understand the fact that different employees have different preferences on how they would like themselves to be recognized. Some might get a boost of morale from public recognition, but some others may prefer smaller private gestures. Considering this fact, employee recognition efforts can be categorized into several different types:
Top-Down Vs. Peer
Employees expect acknowledgments from their leaders and employers, and in most companies, this can be a formal validation of performance. Top-down recognition often results in a promotion or pay raise, and in most cases, it increases employees’ job security.
However, peer-to-peer recognition from coworkers or even from someone lower in the organizational chart can still be meaningful for employees, often resulting in improved camaraderie, better collaboration, and increased collective morale.
Public vs. Private
As discussed, some employees may prefer the spotlight when being recognized by managers or peers, but some others may dread public recognition. Before acknowledging any behaviors and / or actions from employees, it is crucial to first understand the employees’ personalities and preferences.
Behavior Vs. Action / Performance
Recognition is more often associated with performance metrics and milestones: hitting a sales target, finishing a project, 10-years tenure, and so on. However, acknowledgments and praises should also be given on positive behaviors that align with the companies’ values like exceptional teamwork, helping a coworker, working extra hours, and so on. Companies should show that their employees that efforts also matter.
Attributed Vs. Anonymous
In most cases, employee recognition is given by someone known to the recipient (attributed). However, in certain cases, anonymous recognition (ie anonymous thank-you card) can be just as or even more meaningful than attributed recognition.
Knowing Employees’ Preferences
Every employee is unique, so there is no one-size-fits-all answer on how to give employee recognition. Each employee may provide different responses to different types of recognition (as discussed above), and it is the manager’s and company’s job to identify how each individual employee in the team wants to be recognized.
The best approach is to ask the employees how they would prefer to be recognized. This can be done via one-on-one interviews or by running surveys.
Each company should try to get the answers to the following questions:
- Does the employee prefer private or public recognition?
- Does the employee prefer to be recognized? Some employees may find smaller recognitions for minor wins more meaningful, while some others may prefer that a company wait until the end of a major milestone.
- What types of work does a specific employee want to be recognized for more? This can vary greatly between different employees based on their roles and personalities.
- Does the specific employee prefer team or individual rewards? Some employees would prefer the company to emphasize team efforts.
Employee Recognition Best Practices
To ensure the success of the employee recognition program and to make sure it’s future-proof, companies should maintain the following best practices when building an employee recognition program:
Many companies make the same mistake of only recognizing employees once a year at annual parties. Yet, it is better to provide consistent and frequent acknowledgment and praise throughout the year so companies can establish cultures of recognition. They can use an appropriate employee recognition system to support their cultures of recognition by facilitating easy and frequent recognition from both leaders and peers.
Specific and Personal Recognition
It is crucial to first identify an employee’s preference before giving recognition. If companies approach employee recognition as a one-size-fits-all thing, then it is not demonstrate to employees that they are unique and valued. Every company should make an extra effort to identify each employee’s preference so it can deliver personalized and meaningful recognition for him or her.
Companies should gamify recognition whenever possible – making games and competitions out of recognition efforts to keep them fun. There do not need to be big and overly complex contests, but ones kept friendly with simple rewards (ie gift cards to nearby coffee shops). Offering free lunches or happy hour beer is another effective way to keep recognition fun.
Employee recognition needs not be thought of as a boring, rigid thing that does not really have any impact on the workplace. When done right, employee recognition can be meaningful, fun, and effective in improving a workplace’s productivity and lowering turnover rate.
By following the tips and best practices shared above, companies can start planning effective and successful employee recognition programs right away.
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